New York Times Portraits of Grief
Kazimierz Jakubiak is uneasy about that urn of trade center ashes on a table in his Queens living room. "It's mixed with the people who did this," he said.
His wife, Maria, loved this house, had tried so hard "to get it just right." That brick fireplace? He had promised to build it by Christmas, and now he has. Next to it hangs a picture of the couple on a cruise in 1997, just before a flood engulfed her parents' house in Poland. "She was crushed," he said. "It was the house she was born in."
In 1989, the Jakubiaks had the chance to emigrate to either the United States or Canada. "I want to see the Statue of Liberty," she had said, and it was decided.
When their youngest was 3 — their boys are 11 and 16 now, their daughter, 17 — Maria Jakubiak itched to go to work. After studying English and receiving an associate's degree, she got an accounting job at Marsh & McLennan, later studying nights for a bachelor's degree. Everything was clicking.
In August, shaken by a ride in a plunging, out-of-control elevator, Ms. Jakubiak, 40, took a few days off. "You could quit," her husband had said. But she loved her job, and especially the co-workers who were fresh out of college.
"She was like a mother to them," he said. "It was her first job in the U.S., and she was proud of it."